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Syria’s Assad Blasts Recent US, Israeli Use of Radioactive and Chemical Weapons in Iraq, Gaza

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces likely targeted civilians with chemical weapons during a two-year civil war which has claimed more than 100,000 lives, lashed out at the US and Israel for their recent use of radioactive and chemical weapons.

In a pre-taped interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose that aired on Monday evening, Assad scoffed at Obama’s ‘red line,’ or his regime’s use of chemical weapons, pointing to recent uses of depleted uranium by US forces in Iraq and white phosphorous by Israel during the 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza.

“Obama drew that line, and Obama can draw a line for himself and for his country, not for other countries,” Assad said during the interview. “We have our ‘red lines,’ like our sovereignty and our independence. While if you want to talk the word ‘red lines,’ the United States has used uranium, depleted uranium, in Iraq; Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza, and nobody said anything. What about the ‘red lines?’ We don’t see ‘red lines.’ It’s political.”

US forces did rely heavily upon depleted uranium (DU) munitions during both Iraq wars. Radioactive DU rounds are ideal for piercing hardened armor, but they explode on impact, releasing potentially deadly dust particles that linger in the soil, air and water for many years. Breathing DU particles into the body can poison organs, blood, nervous systems and DNA. While the Pentagon publicly states that DU is not known to cause any harm, Army training materials warn that “contamination will make food and water unsafe for consumption” and require soldiers coming within 80 feet (24 m) of DU to wear protective clothing. Geiger counter readings of DU-contaminated sites in Iraq have shown radiation levels 1,000- 2,000 times higher than normal. In Fallujah, which saw heavy fighting between US forces and Iraqi resistance fighters, a staggering rise in horrific birth defects and miscarriages has been attributed to exposure to toxic and/or radioactive metals used during the war. US and NATO forces also unleashed large amounts of depleted uranium on Yugoslavia during the brief but deadly 1999 war against the Slobodan Milosevic regime.

As for Israel, its forces utilized white phosphorus (WP), a US-made chemical and incendiary agent banned for use in war against civilians, against both Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza during the 2008-09 ‘Cast Lead’ invasion. WP ignites on contact with air and burns at nearly 1500 degrees Fahrenheit (816º C), scorching flesh straight through to the bone. Water does not extinguish it. During an Israeli attacks on a United Nations refugee facility in which dozens of Palestinians were killed, victims were afflicted with horrific, foul-smelling wounds that smoked for hours and burned through to bones. Scores of victims perished in blistering agony, with one woman witnessing her children ‘melt’ before her very eyes. As in Lebanon, Israel initially denied using WP, but later confessed to doing so in both Lebanon and Gaza when presented with irrefutable evidence.

Assad’s comments may have been an attempt to deflect attention from his regime’s almost certain use of chemical weapons. The leading international human rights group Human Rights Watch asserted on Tuesday that evidence “strongly suggests” Syrian government forces fired rockets with warheads containing a deadly nerve agent– probably sarin— into the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta last month. The August 21 attack, which is being cited by the Obama administration as justification for a US military attack against Assad’s regime, killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children. The Assad regime denies launching the deadly chemical attack.

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